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Australia begins its largest war games with the US and others, as India is an observer

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton inaugurates the Talisman Sabre wargames (Photo: Australian Defence Ministry)

Australia has launched Talisman Sabre, its biggest military exercise with the US, Japan, the UK, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand. India, Indonesia, Germany and France are attending as observers.

Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton inaugurated the wargames this Wednesday. Held every two years, this year's Talisman Sabre will see the participation of 17,000 troops.

The exercise focuses on interoperability of forces of friendly nations, launching an amphibious offensive on enemy territory as well as the use of air force in such operations. Australia has down-sized the exercise due to the pandemic and has also cancelled public viewing opportunities this year.

The military exercise is being held on the coast of Queensland, where China has already sent a spy ship to keep an eye on the military exercise. In turn, Australian ships and an aircraft are also watching the Chinese spy vessel that lies in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone but outside its territorial limits.

In a statement, Commander of Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, Major General Jake Ellwood said: “Talisman Sabre demonstrates that American and Australian militaries can quickly join forces and execute highly complex multi-domain operations in a demanding environment. The exercise will also provide an opportunity for forces from the United Kingdom and Japan to operate alongside Australian and US forces during the amphibious landings, and some broader participation by forces from Canada, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea."

This year's highlight will be the firing of a Patriot missile by the US.

Nikkei Asia reports that Japan has sent a specialist Ground Self-Defense Force dealing in remote island defence. The unit's main task is to defend the Japan-administered Senkaku islands which are also claimed by China. "Amphibious maneuvers are critical to defending the Nansei Islands, which is one of Japan's top defense priorities," GSDF Chief of Staff Gen. Yoshihide Yoshida told Nikkei Asia.

Read More: Chinese Spy ship in Australian waters adds to Beijing-Canberra rift

Significantly, of the four Quad countries–known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, three are actively participating in the exercises while India is maintaining the status of an invitee. The exercises are being held at a time when regional tensions are high with China involved in disputes of various kinds with all four Quad nations.

The communist country invaded northern parts of India in 2020 during the coronavirus lockdown and tens of thousands of its troops remain perched in and along the Indian border with heavy weaponry.

China has been consistantly violating the air and maritime space of Japan, particularly in the region around Senkaku islands, the ownership of which both nations claim.

Japan and China have exchanged harsh words in the past week after Japan pointed out that China has impacted regional stability due to its posturing in the Taiwan Strait. In its bilateral meetings with the foreign and defence ministers of European nations, Japan has increasingly urged them to send their warships in order to keep the seas free and open in the Indo-Pacific.

Read More: China magazine publishes article detailing three-stage attack on Taiwan

Beijing has also entered into a major trade war with Australia after the latter demanded an investigation into the worldwide spread of the Covid-19 pandemic from Wuhan in China. Beijing has imposed stiff penalties on Australia's farm and mine imports, dealing a heavy blow to some of its sectors. Australia has upped its defence budget considerably this year. It is also procuring new weapons and investing in military exercises with friendly countries.

China and US tensions are at an all time high over trade disputes as well as accusations of human rights violations in Tibet, Xinjiang, the suspension of rights in Hong Kong as well as frequent threats of invasion of Taiwan.

The Indo-Pacific region is under a spotlight as China has upped the frequency of its military maneuvers around Taiwan and in the South China Sea against Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. In response, the US too has sailed its ships in the region as a warning to China in defence of Taiwan.